A Monster of a Fic: Reading Unslinky’s “Terminal Decay”

For those of our readers who follow my weekly fanfiction recs, you may have noticed that I’m been a bit remiss in my recs for the past month or so. I can explain in two words: Terminal Decay. Five weeks ago, I made it my mission to finish reading this fic by the airing of “The Day of the Doctor.” I’m still not finished.

Terminal Decay” by unslinky is a monstrous fic. I don’t mean that it’s horrid and large and ugly like a kraken, but rather, it’s HUGE. Don’t believe me? Well, take a look at this…

terminal decay screenshot

Yes, it really does say 1002 chapters and 3,065,944 words.

Or to put it another way, since I’ve been reading for 5 weeks that’s:

  • 28 chapters per day (if I had finished…which I haven’t quite)
  • over 80,000 words read per day (about 160 pages)
  • If you account that the typical single-spaced page is about 500 words, that’s 6,132 pages.

To put that into even more perspective:

  • the Harry Potter series is 1,084, 170 words, so reading “Terminal Decay” is like reading the HP series 3 times.
  • the Guinness world record holder for longest novel is A le recherche du temps perdu by Marcel Proust. The novel is 1,267,069 words. “Terminal Decay” is almost 2.5 times that length.

Can you blame me for not quite finishing in time for this rec? I’m on chapter 800, with almost a million words to go before I reach the conclusion.

So why put myself through this? Why read almost an entire novel every day just to rec one fic?

Well, if you’ve read any of my previous DW fic recs, you would probably remember my bitching about the lack of quality Whovian fanfiction.  Even though I’m fairly good at sussing out good fics, I had to turn to my fairy fanfic godmother for help with the DW fandom. “Terminal Decay” was her #1 rec, and boy, I had no idea what I was getting into. So, my Whovian friends, if you want a fic that’s more like an odyssey, then this one’s for you.

The Premise

The story begins shortly after “The Planet of the Dead.” The Tenth Doctor is travelling alone, and one day he calls his old pal Martha Jones because he’s not feeling so good. When he arrives in Cardiff (Martha now works for Captain Jack at Torchwood), his friends quickly discover that the Doctor’s health is in jeopardy. The Doctor is experiencing degeneration, a Time Lord terminal illness that usually occurs at the end of the thirteenth regeneration. However, because of the Metacrisis, the Doctor has lost his Time Energy and will die unless his friends find a way to save him. Cue the angst.

My Thoughts

This is more than just a fanfiction. It’s an experience. It’s a journey. Unslinky creates an entire universe for us to delve into, and she neglects no character. There’s angst–so much angst–as we watch the Doctor lose his health, but then she will give us a moment that is so beautiful and full of joy that I’ll forgive her for all the angst.

As for the ships? There’s hardly a ship that doesn’t make an appearance in this fic. But I will admit, Whovian friends, that I began shipping a ship that I never thought I’d ship.

The original members of the sexy coat club.
The original members of the sexy coat club.

That’s right, I jumped ship. I will always have TenxRose as my canon OTP. But Unslinky opened my eyes to something that should have been obvious (well, it was obvious to Captain Jack anyway).

Here’s my favorite bit (that I’ve read so far):

He had never intended on saying anything, not until he was fit, just in case it wasn’t real and just a symptom of degeneration, or permissible because he could not sense Jack was wrong. He couldn’t deny it though, not when Jack needed him and they were connected, and when they were this close his feelings were so real. He could not force it away or deny it when they were linked however briefly or tentatively or for whatever reason. He was scared, but believed his love was stronger than any fear or immortality or being crushed. He hadn’t wanted to tell Jack in case it wasn’t stronger than immortality, or in case he died and then Jack would be lost. All of the confusion, doubt, and fear surrounding the admission flooded into Jack at the same time as the love the Time Lord felt and it left Jack thinking in the same confused circles as the Doctor.

I’ve got 200 chapters to go and then my quest will be complete. Honestly? I don’t think I’ll know what to do with myself. Reading “Terminal Decay” has become a daily habit; every day I greet my favorite characters and take a glimpse into their lives. What will I do when it’s done?

Luckily, most of Unslinky’s other fictions are 200+ chapters. I may never read a normal-length fic again.

Shipfully yours,

The Collectress


  1. Tayla

    I love this fic! Believe it or not, I’ve read it twice over and intend to again. The interplay between the characters is so perfectly executed, and every aspect is examined. I highly recommend anything written by unslinky if you are looking for quality.

  2. Pavatti

    the best part? there’s terminal decay side fics! it only gets better! all by unslinky!

    when I started reading this I swore I would put it down, what on earth could they possibly continue to say. I’m on chapter 950 something and oh god I never want it to end. All I want to do every day is read Terminal Decay, and the science! I ADORE chemistry, not as much into medical… stuff but I understand it enough to see how much more unslinky understands it than me. The fake science makes PERFECT sense according to my knowledge of molecular chemistry and it’s absolutely believable and I adore it. I ADORE it. I shipped Jack/10 a little before simply because…. It was there. but there are no good fics really, there are some that are interesting to read but none I could see happening. This… with how little I enjoy the newer seasons of Who I’m finding it very hard not to just lose myself in this world and accept it as where I was meant to be, meant to watch and love the show until that very moment so I could discover this and lose myself in it(I’m very passionate about writing) The one thing I don’t agree with- The Doctor’ name. I pretend that didn’t happen, it was just…. it was a comedic moment in the middle of a heart wrenching emotional roller coaster of a fic and it really broke the illusion of reality for a while for me.

  3. Frances

    It took me 18 months to read Terminal Decay. When it ended I was sad that the end came. BUT…. the TD Universe is fascinating. LOVE the kids, the other characters. I was reading other fic, but Unslinky’s fab fic has me diving into her worlds.

  4. Leigh

    I first read TD in 2012, and it reduced me to tears on multiple occasions. I have since read it twice more, the last time after my dad’s death from an unexpected degenerative illness.

    The story lost nothing from knowing the its progression, but became all the sader and more pertinent watching a strong character being deminished in this way. Sad, harrowing, positive, yet uplifting…and utterly heartwrenching. Just read it, and then read it again.

    I look forward to every new post from this writer.

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